The Daviess County Panthers trailed Henderson County 35-0 late in the first half on Friday in the opener of the Class 6A State Playoffs, but it turned out the game was far from over.
The Panthers roared back in the second half but couldn’t find one last score as they fell 49-42 to the Colonels in Henderson.
DC coach Matt Brannon said the mood was down on the sidelines for the first 24 minutes of the game but he challenged his team at halftime.
“Early in the first half, I think we all were down,” he said. “You started seeing shoulders shrug and body language. I’m arguing with my staff on the sideline and it’s like what do you do? You’re grabbing for straws but we went in at halftime and I said you can’t turn back time. You can’t worry about what’s happened, it’s already happened.
“You don’t have any do overs, you basically have to approach this as a two-quarter game and play like you should have in the first half. Just play every play one play at a time. Don’t focus on the end result, don’t focus on how behind we are. Just go out and perform each play to the best of your ability and if you play that play well then play then next play better.”
With his team down 35-0, junior quarterback Joe Humphreys started to find his rhythm.
Humphreys found Isaiah Tomes to get the Panthers on the board just before the break. After a rushing score from Bryson Parm and a touchpass pass to Decker Renfrow, DC was down 42-21 with 6:39 left in the fourth.
Brannon said he liked how his team started the second half.
“It was great to see us come out and we probably should have scored faster but we chewed up the clock and had an impressive drive. I thought that kind of got us back on track,” he said. “Defensively, we were able to get some stops.”
Humphreys then hit Parker Crews to make it 49-28 with 2:12 left in the game.
After an onside kick Parm scored again, this time from 30 yards out. The Panthers recovered another onside kick before Humphreys hit Max Dees for a score, but the DC magic couldn’t find another touchdown.
“Joe Humphreys is the man,” Brannon said. “I’d put him up against any quarterback.”
The Panthers were dealing with injuries all over the field Friday night and Brannon said he did everything he could to help his guys.
“We were a patchwork quilt tonight for sure,” he said. “We had several kids hurt, out for the season. Just moving people around, trying to find breaks for people. They just kept fighting the whole way. I’m proud of the way they finished.”
The Panthers end the season at 3-5 but Brannon said it was obviously a trying year.
“It’s stressful for sure but I think the thing about it, the time that we started, it couldn’t have been more needed,” he said. “We had been locked away and hadn’t been able to see anybody. We were able to get back together and essentially reunite. Our kids just love to work. That’s what I told them, we didn’t get to have all the bells and whistles.
“We didn’t have homecoming or homecoming dance, fans, student sections, pregame meals but it didn’t matter to these guys because they love football. They wanted to work. They liked going out there and being around each other and practicing. We never had a lull in our practices, even over these last three weeks, you never felt like you were going out there and grinding for nothing. We just went out there and had fun with each other and I think that speaks a lot of the character of the team, the players and the staff.”